You’ve heard her podcast. You’ve seen her on Oprah. You’ve downloaded her audiobook. Now you can add the first printed book from Mignon Fogarty (a.k.a. Grammar Girl) to your reference shelf. To the delight of word nerds everywhere, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing came out today. (Scroll down for the corresponding quiz and widget.)
Grammar Girl herself offered me an advance copy for review, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading and highly recommend to both grammar novices and experts alike. As the introduction says, the book is “a practical guide for everyday writers,” and in the age of e-mail and blogging, that’s all of us.
Fogarty writes with the same sensible yet friendly style and subtle humor that’s made her podcast so famous. She gives concrete, everyday examples with help, of course, from Aardvark (a blue aardvark) and Squiggly (a yellow snail) who teach us about language through their “grammar adventures.” The result is a surreal, grammatically correct world where cartoon aardvarks and snails know when to use “fewer” instead of “less.”
Like her podcast, the book includes Fogarty’s trademark tips and helpful memory tricks for learning about grammar, punctuation, and word usage. It’s like a handy, bound-up version of her show, complete with questions and comments from listeners. She deftly covers the classics (e.g., it’s vs. its) as well as less popular topics (e.g., the correct use of “female” and “woman”). Sidebars provide further explanation and trivia tidbits.
As an editor herself, Fogarty knows what makes our blood pressure rise and shares some of her own pet peeves. But like most reasonable grammarians, Fogarty knows the difference between hard-and-fast rules and what has become acceptable common usage. She also recognizes that the rules change depending on the context (formal vs. informal) and country (namely, American English vs. British English).
Although Fogarty acknowledges the book is not a comprehensive style guide, she suggests many ways to tighten and improve your writing and includes an entire chapter on capitalization. But what really distinguishes this book are the sections on writing for the Internet, generating story ideas, and how to turn Fogarty’s tips into a writing career.
Here’s my own quick-and-dirty tip: Buy this book. Give it to friends. It could make life easier for editors – as long as we’re not out of a job!